A Biography of Jim Reeves, One of Country Music's Greats

Jim Reeves
Jim Reeves. Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jim Reeves was born James Travis Reeves on August 20, 1923 in Galloway, Texas. The popular country music artist is recognized as a proponent of the Nashville sound and released a series of hit records through the '50s and '60s. Even after his death on July 31, 1964 Reeves' music continued to chart.

Early Life

Reeves grew up in Galloway, Texas, a small rural town in East Texas. He was quite an athlete, earning an athletic scholarship to play baseball at the University of Texas where he studied speech and drama.

His college career was short-lived, however: he left after a mere six weeks to work in the Houston shipyards. Reeves continued to play baseball and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals' minor league team in the early 1940s. He played for three years until he damaged his sciatic nerve, shattering his athletic dreams.

Foray into Music

He worked as a radio announcer, singing live between songs. Soon he became a member of country western singer Moon Mullican's band, and it wasn't long before he was creating original recordings of his own, like "Each Beat of My Heart" and "My Heart's Like a Welcome Mat." Reeves' career took off in the 1950s thanks to the No. 1 hits "Mexican Joe" and "Bimbo." His debut album, Jim Reeves Sings, was released in 1955, and he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry that same year.

Country music in the 1950s was known for major volume. In Reeves' early recordings he sings loudly, but he experimented with his style, toning his voice down, singing softly and hitting a lower register.

Reeves also incorporated orchestral elements into his music, pioneering what became known as the Nashville sound. The country crooner's baritone voice shines in tracks like "Adios Amigo" and holiday songs like "Blue Christmas." Reeves continued to make popular music in the late '50s and early '60s.

He gained a huge international following and if often credited as introducing country music to the global market.

Death and Legacy

Reeves' life - and career - were tragically cut short on July 31, 1964 when he and his manager, Dean Manuel, died in a private plane crash en route to Nashville. In the years following his death, his sales increased, and throughout the rest of the decade his label, RCA, released a string of posthumous singles, many of which, including 1966's "Distant Drums," were No. 1 hits. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967. His posthumous success continued throughout the '70s and '80s. In fact, he had a single on the charts every year between 1970 and 1984.

A box set, Welcome to My World, was issued in the 1990s, and his legacy continues to live on.

Most Popular Songs

  • "He'll Have to Go"
  • "Welcome to My World"
  • "Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue)"
  • "I Missed Me"
  • "The Wreck of the Number Nine"

Album Picks

  • The Essential Jim Reeves (1995)
  • Golden Memories (1997)
  • Hall of Fame 1967 (2003)
  • He'll Have to Go (1960)